‘I’m pleased we managed to put a score on the board at all’: Pressure on Britain as they seek Paris qualification after challenging day

  • The pressure is on for Britain’s final two riders to perform strongly on day two of the team competition at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark.

    Britain currently sit in 14th on the team leaderboard, but the top nine teams have had more riders complete in the team competition, as only grades I, II and IV have taken place. Of the teams that have had two or fewer riders in action so far, Britain is lying fifth, behind the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and Ireland.

    Sir Lee Pearson and Georgia Wilson were in action for Britain today in the grade II division. Georgia and the eight-year-old Supertramp achieved a solid score of 72.91% to get the ball rolling for Britain, while Lee posted 73.53% on his home-bred Barcardi son Breezer.

    It was a tricky test for Lee, and a score well below what he and the talented but sensitive Breezer are capable of – some unfortunately timed applause from the neighbouring jumping stadium upset Breezer just as he and Lee were about to enter the arena, and their performance suffered with some tension as a result.

    “It’s a very difficult test with a hot horse in a big environment, and I would have liked to have earned a slightly higher score for the team, but I’m actually pleased we managed to put a score on the board at all, because there were moments when I had to work really hard to calm him down by sitting really deep in the saddle,” said Lee.

    Britain’s current standings mean that it will take chunky scores from tomorrow’s riders, Sophie Wells and Natasha Baker, to lift the team onto the podium at the World Para Dressage Championships. But both riders are very experienced and will be looking to build on their individual silver medals from earlier in the week, with Sophie and Don Cara M having posted 75.28% in grade V, and Natasha Baker scoring 73.97% with Keystone Dawn Chorus for silver in grade III.

    Britain’s main rivals coming into the championship were expected to be Denmark and the Netherlands, and both these teams have already posted vey high scores from their day one riders in the team contest, as they remain in the hunt for medals. Also in contention for a podium place at this stage are the USA and German teams, while Ireland have also enjoyed a very strong start, thanks to Rosemary Gaffney and Michael Murphy scoring well in grades IV and I.

    Michael earned a mark of over 76% with the Vivaldi x Kennedy gelding Cleverboy, finishing third on the grade I leaderboard following his bronze in the individual.

    “He was amazing and really took it up a level from two days ago,” said Michael. “As a team, we’re really progressing – give us a few more years and hopefully be able to challenge the top teams.”

    As well as medals, teams are hoping to secure valuable qualification for the Paris Paralympics in 2024. The top seven teams will win a slot at the Games, not including 2024 host nation Paris.

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